I love pizza. It’s probably one of my favorite foods. I admit to being very particular regarding my pizza toppings. My ultimate preference is for simplicity. Just sauce, cheese and fresh basil. I will eat mushrooms (fresh only please. No respectable pizzeria should even think about using canned mushrooms!) and occasionally sausage, but I’m super picky about it. Something I will not eat on pizza ever (and cannot even be picked off because it smells like feet) is pepperoni. I will graciously allow you to have pepperoni on your half, but don’t expect me to eat it and please keep it from contaminating my side of the pizza.
Other things I will eat on pizza… dollops of ricotta, thinly sliced onions, sometimes garlic, meatballs (again depend on the place). Once I had a pizza with garlic and broccoli, it was very different for me, but I really liked it. As for crust…I’m a New York girl at heart. If you can’t fold it in half, it’s not real pizza. And for the record, pizza should always be cut into slices, like pie slices not tiny little squares, thankyouverymuch. A nice chewy crust is best, but I can now appreciate Chicago Deep Dish style of pizza even if it’s not my first or second choice.
So I just wrote all of these things about my favorite kind of pizza and this blog post is about a pizza that’s completely different from what I just explained. This is a true Chicago treat. It’s in a little place that’s been around for years and has a very interesting history. It’s called Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder. They have a very limited menu which allows them to make those items really well. I’m pseudo-apologizing for the darkness of the phots and video right now. This place is a dark cave of a restaurant, which is cool when you’re in there eating, but doesn’t set the stage well for photos.
CPOG has really good, fresh salads. Even better are the dressings that accompany them. They have a sweet poppyseed dressing as well as a spicy garlic one. Put a little of each on your salad and mix it all up and it’s a very good taste combination.
They are also known for their Mediterranean bread which is a giant flat bread that arrives at your table on a really tiny plate. The bread hangs over the plate and you rip it into pieces and chow down. They put an herb and spice topping on it that is full of dried onions, garlic, parsely, salt and pepper and probably a million other tasty things.
No, really, it’s huge. Here it is in relation to a human.
(This same human has also requested his own Mediterranean bread on the occasion we bring more than four people to CPOG. He loves it that much and he doesn’t like to share. Much like my friend Rob who refuses to share his french fries.)
(Same human after eating the majority of the Mediterranean bread. I never say “I told you so” even though I always say “Don’t eat it all!! You’ll regret it later” Now, I’ll just flash this picture instead of not saying it.)
They are best know for their pizza pot pies (I don’t know how else to explain them). The pizza comes to you flipped over like a bowl of dough and they flip it out onto a plate leaving it cheese side up. They come in two sizes, half pound and full pound. (In thirteen plus years, I’ve never seen anyone eat a full pounder!)
Look at this thing of beauty:
Your options are for meat, meat and mushroom (with a few giant mushrooms) and vegetarian. The sauce is a thick meaty sauce that would taste amazing on a plate of spaghetti. It’s really a hearty meal.
Here’s a short, dark video clip of the flipping of the pizza pot pie.
The last thing I’ll say is that after you’ve had this amazing salad, Mediterranean bread and then the hearty pizza pot pie, they bring you the most delectable chocolate honeycomb candies. The waiters guard these candies with their lives. You can’t get more even if you beg for them and forget about finding out the supplier. At least that’s the experience I’ve had over many years.
If you’re in Chicago and are looking for a different kind of pizza experience, give Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder a try. you’ll love it. Just letting you know, they only take CASH! and the wait can be long. Go when they open for an early dinner and wave at the crowds as you leave.
CHICAGO PIZZA AND OVEN GRINDER COMPANY
2121 NORTH CLARK STREET
CHICAGO, IL 60614
And that, my loyal readers (you ALL know who you are) is the latest installment of Fave Foods.
We discovered a hidden gem in Carthage, NC. Ok, maybe it’s not hidden and we didn’t technically discover it. How about I just get to the food?
PikNPig is a bbq place specializing in pork. Pulled pork and ribs and some chicken. I’m all about the pulled pork so I was very happy.
This place is situated next to a small airstrip. You can sit outside and watch planes landing and taking off while you are shoveling down the food.
Pics of the smokehouse
I freely admit I don’t know a lot about BBQ, except that I like it. A lot. I live near Chicago, which is not known as a BBQ hotspot, so I eat as much as I can when I’m traveling and it’s available.
This was the best pulled pork I’ve ever had. The meat was tender, flavorful (really, does anything taste better than pork? I didn’t think so) and it just fell apart on the plate. It tasted great even without sauce, but of course I used some. They had a honey bbq and a spicy bbq sauce. I don’t like really spicy food, but I found the honey and the spicy together were a winning combination.
Oh that big jug in the middle is famous southern sweet tea. It was delicious and not overly sweet, just enough.
Take home sauces. Honey Butt Sauce and Spicy Butt Sauce. Really, I’m not making this up.
Ok ok, on to the food. I ordered the pulled pork combo for $6.95 and it came with cole slaw, hush puppies with jalapeno butter, and a sweet potato. Um delicious! So delicious I took two photos!
Let me take a moment to tell you that the hush puppies were not at all like the grease balls you get at Long John Silvers (if you dare.) These were little nuggets of dough, fried and chewy. Tasty.
Look, it’s almost all gone. This was the kind of meal that after you’re done, you don’t want to eat or drink anything for a long time because the flavors linger on your tongue.
JenTastic ordered this delicious concoction of yellow cake, pudding, crushed pineapple, whipped cream and coconut. They call it “Better Than Sex Cake’. You’ll have to ask her if it lived up to it’s name.
I tried the Coco-Cola cake, also called Co Cola cake. It looks dry, but it was really moist. I think they use a special kind of cocoa powder. The frosting was really tasty, too!
Can you tell I liked it?
Our meal was very reasonably priced and the food was incredibly good. The restaurant itself is small and a little cramped. It was a former post office filled with a lot of the original furniture. All sorts of cool stuff. The waitresses were friendly and it really looked like a neighborhood place. They told us they get a lot of people flying in for take out and heading back out to their planes. Must be nice.
I’d recommend PikNPig for anyone near Fort Bragg, NC. It’s worth the drive.
Welcome to my new feature called Fave Foods. Here you’ll learn all about the restaurant foods that I love. This will be my place to focus on well known and well hidden Chicagoland (and sometimes from other cities) dishes. I’d love to hear what you think about the recommendations even if you disagree.
Besides reading, traveling, watching the Celtics (and napping, blogging and teaching) I also really enjoy food. Cooking it, eating it, trying different cuisines. I’d consider myself a foodie, but not in a snooty way. I like cheap food, midrange food and yeah sure occasionally expensive food.
This was Jose’s birthday weekend, so of course we overindulged. Normally, I’d cook a special birthday meal, but for some reason, maybe the hot weather and the fact that school ended Friday and I was completely wiped out, we decided to dine out for his birthday. About 12 times in the past three days. Ok, slight exaggeration, but not by much.
This morning we woke up early, happy to both have a day off. It’s Memorial Day 2010! We decided it was a good time to head to Chuck’s Southern Comforts Cafe (website needs help, I know) for breakfast. I discovered Chuck’s about a year ago from one of the best Chicago TV shows — Check Please! It’s a restaurant review show that focuses on Chicago dining. We’ve tried a lot of restaurants we’ve seen showcased on this program and have enjoyed many of them.
(Side note…I don’t know what’s up with Italian restaurants in Chicago, but almost all the ones we’ve tried have not delivered. Maybe my standards are too high? My grandma made the BEST gravy ever. For you non-New Englanders, gravy = spaghetti sauce)
For the first few months we went to Chuck’s, we’d have lunch or dinner. Mostly BBQ items. I love the BBQ chicken and pork nachos. Once in a while we’d try one of Chuck’s creations which are a mixture of Mexican/Creole/Southern food. It’s an odd combo on paper, but really works on a plate. His soups are incredible. My favorite is the cream of poblano with shrimp. Hello delicious.
One of my friends, Karen, got on the Chuck’s kick at the same time as me and asked if we’d tried the breakfast yet. Whaaaat? Breakfast at Chuck’s? I LOVE restaurant breakfast. (Really, I just love eggs. All kinds, but especially eggs over medium. Whites cooked, edges of yolk cooked but insides still runny. Just perfect for toast or English muffins.) So of course at the next possible moment we drove there to try it.
Chuck’s breakfast menu. You can seen from this menu that it contains special items as well as a traditional breakfast menu, all prepared with Chuck’s typical flair. In addition to the regular menu (breakfast, lunch and dinner) there’s a daily special AND monthly specials. It’s impossible to keep up with the dishes that revolve around the menus.
I had the basic breakfast and thought it was good, but typical. Jose tried the Machacado omelet which had smoked beef brisket, tomato, onion, jalapeno and cheddar cheese. He liked it but it was nothing to write home about. I was dying to try the Cafe de Olla, the Mexican coffee made with cinnamon, brown sugar and orange peel. Turns out it’s the BEST coffee I’ve ever had. It’s served in a French press and it’s just amazingly delicious. It’s enough for 3 cups (can be shared if you’re feeling generous). YUM.
The next time we went to Chuck’s for breakfast, we each tried something else. I had Chuck’s Famous Bananas Foster French Toast —three pieces of Pain Perdu topped with caramelized bananas and toasted pecans.
Wow, was this good. It was sweet and delicious and very filling. I’ve since had the Bananas Foster pancakes and they are even better. Giant, fluffy pancakes and a bowl of the bananas foster and pecans. This is a special treat only and definitely something that could be shared at the table.
Over a period of a few months, we tried various items from the menu like different omelets and biscuits and gravy. All very good. Jose’s favorite dish is the Huevos ala Rancheros which is two tortillas stuffed with chorizo and cheese and topped with two eggs (over easy) , a spicy roasted tomato sauce and queso fresco cheese. Served with tomato chipotle rice and refried black beans.
He loves it. I think it’s tasty, but too spicy for me!
Things changed one day when Karen asked, “Have you tried the Huevos ala Frontera yet? It’s amazing. Corn sopas filled with refried beans with a poached egg on top and covered in a poblano cream sauce, topped with crispy chorizo and diced tomatoes!”
This is not my typical breakfast fare, as I tend to gravitate toward sweeter items, but she wouldn’t stop recommending it. She’s a food pusher like that. :)
One day as we were driving to Chuck’s discussing what we were going to order. (What? You don’t do that?) Jose decided he was going to try it. I was still in Bananas Foster mode at this time, so I said “Go ahead…it sounds too strange to me. I’ll be digging into a bowl of caramelized bananas and pecans with pancakes on the side!”
Welllll. I was wrong. It was absolutely delicious. I tried a bite and was completely blown away. The combination of flavors the poblano, the egg and the creamy refried beans with the slight crunch of the sopa. It worked together perfectly.
I have stopped looking for the perfect breakfast because I have found it. Every time I order it, it’s better than the time before. For me, Huevos ala Frontera from Chuck’s Southern Comforts Cafe is the BEST egg dish I’ve ever eaten.
If you’re in the Chicago area, try Chuck’s. I’d recommend breakfast if you only have one shot, but ALL the food is very good. I had a terrific chicken fried steak that came with mashed potatoes and a sage gravy that was spectacular. It’s in Burbank, IL not a far drive from the city. You won’t be disappointed.